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Questions for Jeroen Tas

What is the current scenario of telemedicine in the world? Are there more advanced countries in this field?

In many markets telehealth has not yet been embraced to its full extend. There are several reasons for that. The technology is there. But healthcare is a traditional industry, and for good reason. Every change has to be backed up by extensive clinical research. It’s complex to implement new way of working into existing workflows. This needs to come with good change management. The most important hurdle however is the reimbursement models. Too often innovations such as telehealth are not reimbursed and therefore not adopted at scale.

The United States is a trail blazer where it comes to telehealth. This country has been moving to value-based care models for the past decade where providers are paid for outcomes not for interventions. This has boosted the adoption of telehealth solutions such eICUs or remote home monitoring programs for people with multiple chronic conditions. But also in countries such as India we see an adoption of telehealth models by city-based hospitals that want to serve patient populations in more remote rural regions.

The speed with which healthcare has changed during COVID-19 is absolutely incredible. Our industry usually moves slower. But the COVID-19 outbreak has forced health systems and innovators alike to pivot and adapt quickly. One of the biggest leaps forward is that telehealth is being broadly adopted.

With the large number of patients involved and the face-to-face risk of infecting other patients and staff, online consultations can provide valuable relief to the healthcare system. Philips has made available a dedicated scalable telehealth solution that facilitates the use of online patient screening and monitoring, supported by external call centers. The solution aims to prevent unnecessary visits to general practitioners and hospitals by remotely monitoring the vast majority of COVID-19 patients that are quarantined at home. Patients infected with COVID-19 can be remotely monitored via smart questionnaires about their home situation and state of health, identifying if intervention is needed.

A tele-ICU or eICU enables a co-located team of intensivists and critical care nurses to remotely monitor patients in the ICU regardless of patient location. Intensivists and nurses based in a telehealth eICU hub are supported by high-definition cameras, telemetry, predictive analytics, data visualization and advanced reporting capabilities in order to support their frontline colleagues. Algorithms alert to signs of patient deterioration or improvement. They help care teams to proactively intervene at an earlier stage or to decide which patients have stabilized and can be transferred, allowing scarce ICU beds to be allocated to more acute patients. The tele-ICU can be embedded in a larger Clinical and Operations Center that prioritizes patients on acuity and optimizes the patient flow and logistics.

Solutions like these enable more COVID-19 patients to receive care. We have been helping hospitals with installed eICUs to expand their reach and exchange important information about COVID-19 indicators and protocols. We are supporting others to expand the reach of their ICUs into other settings.

The remote monitoring approach can also be extended to the home, with smart wearables tracking patients who are infected or at risk of infection. These wearables, like a smart patch, can measure body temperature, respiration rate and heart rate, monitor sleep and detect falls. All these measurements can be combined with contextual and behavioral information about the patient to keep them as safe as possible. We have been working on rapidly deployable solutions like these for (at risk) patients.

What are the benefits of eHealth for doctors, hospitals and patients?

We believe it can help improve the quality or care but also help to reduce costs as some care can be moved to lower cost settings when technology is used to support this. Telehealth combined with advanced analytics such as AI can pick up on signs of patient deterioration at a very early stage.

At the same time we believe it can greatly improve the experience for both staff and patients. Staff is under immense pressure. Telehealth can help relieve the burden. Patients will benefit from the improved experience. They can live more independently, in their home, while receiving quality care from their care team, without the need to travel to the hospital.

How do you imagine the future of healthcare and the relationship between doctor and patient? And what projects is Philips planning?

The relationship between doctor and patient will always be key, the human factor is essential, but we believe in the future the doctor will be supported by telehealth and other digital technologies to further improve that relationship and patient care in general. Telehealth will support in making healthare more personalized, tailored to the needs of the individual patient.

The hospital of the future is a network with flexible capacity, connected by a single digital infrastructure: critically ill patients are cared for in (remotely supported) ICUs; regular care takes place in connected health hubs in the community; while the at-risk patient population is monitored remotely and more engaged with their health than ever before.

What is Philips planning?
We are currently fully focused on supporting hospitals and governments as they are navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have ramped up creating and production of critical health technology products in response to COVID-19 pandemic. We have teamed up with customers around the globe to quickly develop solutions to support them, among which many telehealth solutions. The Philips Foundation has been delivering pro bono support throughout the world to enable access to critical care by leveraging Philips’ expertise, innovative products and solutions

The use of ICT and their innovative approaches to assist and manage health care raises new challenges related to legal, ethical and governance issues. What is your opinion about it?

At Philips, we are committed to ethical use of data. When using personal data, we aim to benefit our customers, patients, and society as a whole. To ensure we handle and use data with great care, we diligently apply the recently published principles that you can find here:


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